From farm to feast
August 15, 2014
Sunday night's second annual Farm to Table Banquet featured six high-quality, freshly harvested and locally sourced courses. Several items were even prepared by downtown restaurants near downtown Nevada City's Commercial Street, which had been closed to through-traffic and lined with hay bales near the curb.
The boardwalk, which has been a subject of significant local controversy since its installation in 2011, was used as a kind of stage for local musicians. Terrazzo lighting was strung overhead, and just after sunset the largest full moon of the year hung just over the old Alpha building.
"I can imagine myself in a little town in Italy, with the lights, and that this is all family," said Suzanne Himmler, when asked to describe the scene.
"The full moon is rising, and it's one small little bit of magic," she said. "It kind of makes the hair stand up on my arm.
"You meet people that you've never met before, and it's awesome," Himmler added.
Rich Abbott, a Sacramento resident, said he wouldn't normally sit and talk with strangers like he did Sunday night. But the Farm to Table dinner was a very friendly and welcoming environment, he said, even for an out-of-towner.
"I really get the sense that these people know each other and like each other," Abbott said. "This is just a wonderful community event."
Meals were served to 120 ticket holders seated together at one long communal table stretching 112 feet down the center of Commercial Street. Attendants were seated European style, side by side with strangers, which organizers hoped would create a space to visit with other community members they might never meet under other circumstances.
"People here tonight don't know if they're sitting next to a bank president or a volunteer or somebody that just got lucky and got to sit down and join us," said Reinette Senum, who played a key role in organizing the event.
"I had homeless people tonight sitting next to judges, all at the same table," Senum said. "That's what we need to bring back, just by creating a space that's available to the community."
During a brief round of speeches, as dessert was served, fund-raising efforts were announced to turn Commercial Street into a semi-permanent gathering space that could be closed off to through-traffic on a temporary basis with bollards — hardened posts designed to stop oncoming vehicles.
"Instead of putting in blacktop we could use permeable pavers, and we could put in retractable bollards," Senum said. "From what I can tell, we need traffic flow during business hours on weekends. But for evenings, weekends, and special events, pop those bollards up and you've got a town square.
"We had a plaza where Highway 49 is, and that was a nexus where we all came together to start our parades or protests," she said.
"I think that's what crippled us over the last 50 years," Senum added. "We've lost that nexus, and that place to come together and be equals."
Instead, Senum said, for the last few decades the Nevada City community has been divided into councils, boards and committees.
The menu for the second annual Nevada City Farm To Table Banquet included a plate of fermented vegetables, shishito peppers with blackberry, peach pizza with gorgonzola and bacon, watermelon salad, flat iron steak prepared with a whiskey peppercorn rub, and lemon ice cream served with a fresh cookie for dessert.
Vegetarians also had the option of grilled portobello mushroom and summer squash with ricotta, tomatoes and basil.
"Our intention for this was to highlight all the local farms," said Shanan Manuel, of Sierra Farm to Table Catering. "Everything was grown locally and organically."
Participating local farms included Dinner Bell, First Rain, Mountain Bounty, River Hill, Bluebird Farms, Jim Gates' Nevada County Beef, Super Tuber, Starbright Acres, Soil Sisters, and Little Boy Flowers.
"We also had downtown restaurants in Nevada City prepare different parts of the meal," Manuel said Sunday night. "Everyone came together as a community, business people and farmers, and everyone collaborated to make the meal tonight."
Participating restaurants included The Fix, Crazy Horse, Pete's Pizza, Matteo's Public, Treats Ice Cream, Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Company, Cafe Mekka, and Shanan Manuel's Feast and Gather Organic Catering.
Other partners and underwriters included the Food Bank of Nevada County, The Nevada City Film Festival, the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, Clavey's Wines, The Emma Nevada House, the Doolittles and Pauli Halstead. Music was provided by Ragged but Right and the Earles of Newtown.
The Farm to Table Banquet was a fund-raiser for Acoustic Thursdays on the boardwalk. Organizers said the final tally of funds raised will be available next week. They also "passed the hat" to raise money for Nevada City's First Friday Art Walk.
To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
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